Some travellers seek the destination hotel with all the modern comforts and features; sleek and glamorous surroundings, striking views, top-notch service. Others look for that special character hotel that seems to define the locale. Or, better yet, that special hotel that seems to defy time. Standing under the blue awning and the abundant vines of the decades-old Virginia creeper adorning the exterior of the Sylvia Hotel, I am magically transported back to an era of understated elegance.

Originally built in 1913, Vancouver’s Sylvia Hotel began its life as a luxury rental apartment complex. Its conversion to a hotel began in the 1930s. Located steps from Vancouver’s English Bay, this historical hotel is perfect for the budget-minded traveller who seeks traditional surroundings, a convenient and charming location, and good value.  Stately, yet, unpretentious, this heritage hotel welcomes you to a forgotten world.

Most rooms are spacious, if modestly decorated. I was not surprised to be given a key to my room instead of an electronic key card.  Wi-Fi is free and something I consider when travelling on a budget, however, there is a fee for self-parking, which is standard practice in this desirable area. Many rooms offer views of the ocean. Historical Stanley Park is located two blocks away and hosts many activities suitable for couples and families alike including the popular horse-drawn tours.

Sylvia’s Bar, located on the lobby level, has beautiful  views of the adjoining beachfront. It is here that I enjoy a modern twist on an old classic; the Sylvia Caesar. Bartender, Jim, transforms the standard vodka, Clamato and spice mixture into a yummy hors d’oeuvre-like cocktail with the addition of a weighty garnish of prawn, cucumber, tomato, olive, celery and wedge of lemon ($7.50).  Another favorite are the chicken drumettes which are plump, well prepared and plentiful, and perfect for two to share. They are a steal at $13 for a full pound of drumettes.

From my seat, I can see a plethora of food carts across the street. Vancouver has jumped on the food cart craze and it is evident in this area, although from my vantage point, they seem to be more of the hot dog variety than the gourmet versions prevalent in the downtown region.  Don’t forget to check out the live music on Thursday nights, but be warned, you’ll need to get a seat well before 8pm.

Location is everything. The best part of staying in the English Bay area is access to numerous hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses.  Pink Bus Sightseeing, Vancouver Trolley Company and Big Bus all stop nearby and offer the ultimate ‘you call the shots’ touring experience.  A 10 minute stroll lands you at the base of Robson Street for great shopping.

For quality, value, charm and old-world quirkiness, the 100 year old Sylvia Hotel can’t be beat.